'A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason' by Michel Foucault (1961): 'The Birth of the Asylum', 'Conclusion'

A selection from the chapter The Birth of the Asylum and Conclusion from Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault, 1961.
  • See also here for a selection taken from Foucault's lectures at the College de France published as Psychiatric Power.

  • See here for a selection from Pinel's Treatise on Insanity and here for a selection from Tuke's Description of the Retreat.

The Birth of the Asylum

We know the images [of the 'liberation of the insane' by Samuel Tuke and Phillipe Pinel]. They are familiar in all histories of psychiatry, where their function is to illustrate that happy age when madness was finally recognized and treated according to a truth to which we had too long remained blind.

...images that will carry far-- to our own day-- their weight of legend.

But beneath the myths themselves, there was an operation, or rather a series of operations, which silently organized the world of the asylum, the methods of cure, and at the same time the concrete experience of madness.

Samuel Tuke tells how he received at the Retreat a maniac, young and prodigiously strong, whose paroxysms caused panic in those around him and even among his guards. When he entered the Retreat he was loaded with chains; he wore handcuffs; his clothes were attached by ropes. He had no sooner arrived than all his shackles were removed, and he was permitted to dine with the keepers; his agitation immediately ceased; "his attention appeared to be arrested by his new situation." He was taken to his room; the keeper explained that the entire house was organized in terms of the greatest liberty and the greatest comfort for all, and that he would not be subject to any constraint so long as he did nothing against the rules of the house or the general principles of human morality. For his part, the keeper declared he had no desire to use the means of coercion at his disposal. "The maniac was sensible of the kindness of his treatment. He promised to restrain himself." He sometimes still raged, shouted, and frightened his companions. The keeper reminded him of the threats and promises of the first day; if he did not control himself, it would be necessary to go back to the old ways. The patient's agitation would then increase for a while, and then rapidly decline. "He would listen with attention to the persuasions and arguments of his friendly visitor. After such conversations, the patient was generally better for some days or a week." At the end of four months, he left the Retreat, entirely cured. Here... there is no question of limiting a liberty that rages beyond its bounds, but of marking out and glorifying a region of simple responsibility where any manifestation of madness will be linked to punishment. The obscure guilt that in the past had linked transgression and unreason is thus shifted; the madman, as a human being originally endowed with reason, is no longer guilty of being mad; but the madman, as a madman, and in the interior of that disease of which he is no longer guilty, must feel morally responsible for everything within him that may disturb morality and society, and must hold no one but himself responsible for the punishment he receives.

We must... re-evaluate the meanings assigned to Tukes work: liberation of the insane, abolition of constraint... . The real operations were different. In fact Tuke created an asylum where... fear no longer reigned on the other side of the prison gates, it now raged under the seals of conscience. [...] The asylum no longer punished the madman's guilt, it is true; but it did more, it organized that guilt; it organized it for the madman as a consciousness of himself... .
Work comes first in "moral treatment" as practiced at the Retreat. [...] Through work, man... submits his liberty to laws that are those of both morality and reality. [...] In the asylum, work is deprived of any productive value; it is imposed only as a moral rule; a limitation of liberty, a submission to order, an engagement of responsibility, with the single aim of disalienating the mind lost in the excess of a liberty which physical constraint limits only in appearance.
Even more efficacious than work was the gaze of others, what Tuke calls "the need for esteem": "This principle in the human mind, which doubtless influences in a great degree, though often secretly, our general manners; and which operates with peculiar force on our introduction into a new circle of acquintance." [...] The directors and staff of the Retreat thus regularly invited several patients to "tea parties"; the guests "dress in their best clothes, and vie with each other in politeness and propriety. The best fare is provided, and the visitors are treated with all the attention of strangers. The evening generally passes with the greatest harmony and enjoyment. It rarely happens that any unpleasant circumstance occurs; the patients control, to a wonderful degree, their different propensities; and the scene is at once curious and effectingly gratifying."

We see that at the Retreat the partial suppression of physical constraint was part of a system whose essential element was the constitution of a "self-restraint" in which the patient's freedom... was ceaselessly threatened by the recognition of guilt [editors note: 'self-restraint through self-esteem' is a phrase Tuke used in his Description of the Retreat]. Instead of submitting to a simple negative operation that loosened bonds and delivered one's deepest nature from madness, it must be recognized that one was in the grip of a positive operation that confined madness in a system of rewards and punishments, and included it in the movement of a moral consciousness. A passage from a world of Censure to a universe of Judgement. [...] Madness no longer exists except as seen.

Surveillance and Judgment: already the outline appears of a new personage who will be essential in the nineteenth-century asylum. Tuke himself suggests this personage, when he tells the story of a maniac subject to paroxysms of irrepressible violence. One day while he was walking in the garden of the asylum with the keeper, this patient suddenly entered a phase of excitation, moved several steps away, picked up a large stone, and made the gesture of throwing it at his companion. The keeper stopped, looked the patient in the eyes; then advanced several steps toward him and "in a resolute tone of voice . . . commanded him to lay down the stone"; as he approached, the patient lowered his hand, then dropped his weapon; "he then submitted to be quietly led to his apartment." Something had been born, which was no longer repression, but authority. [...] The absence of constraint in the nineteenth-century asylum is not unreason liberated, but madness long since mastered.
For this new reason which reigns in the asylum, madness does not represent the absolute form of contradiction, but instead a minority status, an aspect of itself that does not have the right to autonomy, and can live only grafted onto the world of reason. Madness is childhood. Everything at the Retreat is organized so that the insane are transformed into minors. They are regarded "as children who have an overabundance of strength and make dangerous use of it. They must be given immediate punishments and rewards; whatever is remote has no effect on them. A new system of education must be applied, a new direction given to their ideas; they must first be subjugated, then encouraged, then applied to work, and th made agreeable by attractive means." [...] Minority status became for Tuke a style of existence to be applied to the mad, and for the guards a mode of sovereignty. Great emphasis was placed on the concept of the "family" which organized the community of the insane and their keepers at the Retreat.

The entire existence of madness, in the world now being prepared for it, was enveloped in what we may call, in anticipation, a "parental complex."

...the madman remains a minor, and for a long time reason will retain for him the aspect of the Father.

The asylum is a religious domain without religion, a domain of pure morality, of ethical uniformity. [...] Formerly the house of confinement had inherited, in the social sphere, the almost absolute limits of the lazar house; it was a foreign country. Now the asylum must represent the great continuity of social morality. The values of family and work, all the acknowledged virtues, now reign in the asylum. [...] The asylum's aim was the homogeneous reign of morality, its rigorous extension to all those who tend to escape from it.
...if the law does not reign universally, it is because there are men who do not recognize it, a class of society that lives in disorder, in negligence, and almost in illegality: "If on the one hand we see families prosper for a long series of years in the bosom of harmony and order and concord, how many others, especially in the lower classes, afflict the eye with a repulsive spectacle of debauchery, of dissensions, and shameful distress! That, according to my daily notes, is the most fertile source of the insanity we treat in the hospital."

The problem is to impose, in a universal form, a morality that will prevail from within upon those who are strangers to it and in whom insanity is already present before it has made itself manifest. In the first case, the asylum must act as an awakening and a reminder, invoking a forgotten nature... .

In the classical period, indigence, laziness, vice, and madness mingled in an equal quilt within unreason;... but all had been promoted, in the proximity of the transgression, to the essence of a Fall. Now madness belonged to social failure, which appeared without distinction as its cause, model, and limit. Half a century later, mental disease would become degeneracy [Morel:

‘the degenerate human being, if he is abandoned to himself, falls into progressive degradation. He becomes... not only incapable of forming part of the chain of transmission of progress in human society, he is the greatest obstacle to this progress through his contact with the healthy portion of the population... the span of his existence is limited as that of all monstrosities’].

Pinel's asylum would [be] a uniform domain of legislation, a site of moral synthesis where insanities born on the outer limits of society were eliminated [alt trans. 'a place of moral synthesies where the nascent alienation that came into being on the fringes of society was to be eliminated']. [...] And this by three principle means:

1. Silence. The fifth chained prisoner released by Pinel was a former ecclesiastic whose madness had caused him to be excommunicated; suffering from delusions of grandeur, he believed
he was Christ; this was "the height of human arrogance in delirium." Sent to Bicetre in 1782, he had been in chains for twelve years. For the pride of his bearing, the grandiloquence of his ideas, he was one of the most celebrated spectacles of the entire hospital, but as he knew that he was reliving Christ's Passion, "he endured with patience this long martyrdom and the continual sarcasms his mania exposed him to." Pinel chose him as one of the first twelve to be released, though his delirium was still acute. But Pinel did not treat him as he did the others; without a word, he had his chains struck off, and "ordered expressly that everyone imitate his own reserve and not address a word to this poor madman. This prohibition, which was rigorously observed, produced upon this self-intoxicated creature an effect much more perceptible than irons and the dungeon; he felt humiliated in an abandon and an isolation so new to him amid his freedom. Finally, after long hesitations, they saw him come of his own accord to join the society of the other patients; henceforth, he returned to more sensible and true ideas."
Deliverance here has a paradoxical meaning. The dungeon, the chains, the continual spectacle, the sarcasms were, to the sufferer in his delirium, the very element of his liberty. [...] But the chains that fell, the indifference and silence of all those around him confined him in the limited use of an empty liberty; he was delivered in silence to a truth which was not acknowledged and which he would demonstrate in vain, since he was no longer a spectacle, and from which he could derive no exaltation, since he was not even humiliated. It was the man himself, not his projection in a delirium, who was now humiliated... . [...] Henceforth, more genuinely confined than he could have been in a dungeon and chains, a prisoner of nothing but himself, the sufferer was caught in a relation to himself that was of the order of transgression, and in a non-relation to others that was of the order of shame. The others are made innocent, they are no longer persecutors; the guilt is shifted inside, showing the madman that he was fascinated by nothing but his own presumption; the enemy faces disappear; he no longer feels their presence as observation, but as a denial of attention, as observation deflected; the others are now nothing but a limit that ceaselessly recedes as he advances. Delivered from his chains, he is now chained, by silence, to transgression and to shame. He feels himself punished, and he sees the sign of his innocence in that fact; free from all physical punishment, he must prove himself guilty. His torment was his glory; his deliverance must humiliate him.
Compared to the incessant dialogue of reason and madness during the Renaissance, classical internment had been a silencing. But it was not total... . Confinement, prisons, dungeons, even tortures, engaged in a mute dialogue between reason and unreason-- the dialogue of struggle. This dialogue itself was now disengaged; silence was absolute; there was no longer any common language between madness and reason; the language of delirium can be answered only by an absence of language, for delirium is not a fragment of dialogue with reason, it is not language at all; it refers, in an ultimately silent awareness, only to transgression. And it is only at this point that a common language becomes possible again, insofar as it will be one of acknowledged guilt. "Finally, after long
hesitations, they saw him come of his own accord to join the society of the other patients ..." [...] When Freud, in psychoanalysis, cautiously reinstitutes exchange, or rather begins once again to listen to this language, henceforth eroded into monologue, should we be astonished that the formulations he hears are always those of transgression? In this inveterate silence, transgression has taken over the very sources of speech.

2. Recognition by Mirror. "Three insane persons, each of whom believed himself to be a king, and each of whom took the title Louis XVI, quarreled one day over the prerogatives of royalty, and defended them somewhat too energetically. The keeper approached one of them, and drawing him aside, asked: 'Why do you argue with these men who are evidently mad? Doesn't everyone know that you should be recognized as Louis XVI?' Flattered by this homage, the madman immediately withdrew, glancing at the others with a disdainful hauteur. The same trick worked with the second patient. And thus in an instant there no longer remained any trace of an argument." This is the first phase, that of exaltation. Madness is made to observe itself, but in others: it appears in them as a baseless pretense—in other words, as absurd. However, in this observation that condemns others, the madman assures his own justification and the certainty of being adequate to his delirium. The rift between presumption and reality allows itself to be recognized only in the object. It is entirely masked, on the contrary, in the subject, which becomes immediate truth and absolute judge: the exalted sovereignty that denounces the others' false sovereignty dispossesses them and thus confirms itself in the unfailing plenitude of presumption. Madness, as simple delirium, is projected onto others; as perfect unconsciousness, it is entirely accepted.
It is at this point that the mirror, as an accomplice, becomes an agent of demystification. Another inmate of Bicetre, also believing himself a king, always expressed himself "in a tone of command and with supreme authority." One day when he was calmer, the keeper approached him and asked why, if he were a sovereign, he did not put an end to his detention, and why he remained mingled with madmen of all kinds. Resuming this speech the following days, "he made him see, little by little, the absurdity of his pretensions, showed him another madman who had also been long convinced that he possessed supreme power and had become an object of mockery. At first the maniac felt shaken, soon he cast doubts upon his tide of sovereign, and finally he came to realize his chimerical vagaries. It was in two weeks that this unexpected moral revolution took place, and after several months of tests, this worthy father was restored to his family." This, then, is the phase of abasement: presumptuously identified with the object of his delirium, the madman recognizes himself as in a mirror in this madness whose absurd pretensions he has denounced; his solid sovereignty as a subject dissolves in this object he has demystified by accepting it. He is now pitilessly observed by himself. And in the silence of those who represent reason, and who have done nothing but hold up the perilous mirror, he recognizes himself as objectively mad.

...the asylum, in this community of madmen, placed the mirrors in such a way that the madman, when all was said and done, inevitably surprised himself, despite himself, as a madman. Freed from the chains that made it a purely observed object, madness lost, paradocially, the essence of its liberty, which was solitary exaltation; it became responsible for what it knew of its truth; it imprisoned itself in a an infinitely self-referring observation; it was finally chained to the humiliation of being its own object. Awareness was now linked to the shame of being identical to that other, of being compromised in him, and of already despising oneself before being able to recognize or to know oneself.

3. Perpetual Judgement. By this play of mirrors, as by silence, madness is ceaselessly called upon to judge itself. But beyond this, it is at every moment judged from without; judged not by moral or scientific conscience, but by a sort of invisible tribunal in permanent session. The asylum Pinel dreamed of and partly realized at Bicetre, but especially at La Salpetriere, is a juridical microcosm. To be efficacious, this judgment must be redoubtable in aspect; all the iconographic apanage of the judge and the executioner must be present in the mind of the madman, so that he understands what universe of judgment he now belongs to. The decor of justice, in all its terror and implacability, will thus be part of the treatment.

Everything was organized so that the madman would recognize himself in a world of judgment that enveloped him on all sides; he must know that he is watched, judged, and condemned; from transgression to punishment, the connection must be evident, as a guilt recognized by all... . [...] This almost arithmetical obviousness of punishment, repeated as often as necessary, the recognition of transgression by its repression-- all this must end in the internalization of the juridical instance, and the birth of remorse in the inmate's mind: it is only at this point that the judges agree to stop the punishment, certain that it will continue indefinitely in the inmate's conscience. [...] The cycle is complete twice over: the transgression is punished and its author recognizes her guilt.

Madness will be punished in the asylum, even if it is innocent outside of it. For a long time to come, and until our own day at least, it is imprisoned in a moral world.


Le Neveu de Rameau and the whole literary fashion that followed it indicated a reappearance of madness in the domain of language, a language where madness was permitted to speak in the first person, uttering in the midst of the empty verbiage and the insane grammar of its paradoxes something that bore an essential relation to the truth. [...] What madness says of itself was, for the thought and the poetry of the early nineteenth century, what dreams say in the disorder of their images; a truth of man, very archaic and very near, very silent and very threatening, a truth that underlies all truth, the truth closest to the birth of subjectivity, and the most widely spread at the very level of things; a truth that is the deep retreat of man's individuality, and the inchoate form of the cosmos:

That which dreams is the Spirit during the instant at which it descends into Matter, and Matter the instant that it rises up to the level of Spirit... Dreams are the revelation of man's very essence, the most peculiar and intimate process that life has to offer. [Holderlin  . Editors note: in his Mental Illness and Psychology, Foucault uses the metaphore of dreams as remounting the descent which 'falling sleep' plunges, in keeping with the theme of an original, vertical dimension of experience, Daesin; and dreams revealing the dawning of existence, its original explosion.]

...the world, so long silent in the face of the tumults of the heart, finds its voice once more:

I question the stars and they fall silent; I address the day and the night but they do not reply. From the depths of myself, when I interrogate myself, there come strange, inexplicable dreams. [Holderlin]

What is specific to the language of madness in Romantic poetry is the language of the ultimate end, and that of the absolute beginning; the end of man, who sinks into the night, and the discovery, at the end of the night, of a light which is that of things as they first come into being:

It is an underground cavern that slowly becomes illuminated, where out of the shadows and night, pale, gravely immobile figures who live in this limbo slowly begin to emerge. Then the picture takes shape, and a new clarity becomes apparent. [Nerval]

Such was the power of madness, announcing man's senseless secret-- that the lowest point of his fall is also his first morning, and that his evening finishes in his first light, and that in him the end is a beginning.
After the long silence of the classical age, madness therefore found its voice once more. But this was a language pregnant with a new significance: the old tragic discourse of the Renaissance, which had spoken of a fear in the fabric of the world, the end of time, and man devoured by his animality, were forgotten. This language of madness was reborn, but as a lyrical explosion: the discovery that in man, the interior was also the exterior, that the extremity of subjectivity blended into the immediate fascination of the object, and that any ending was the promise of an obstinate return. A language in which what transpired were no longer the invisible figures of the world, but the secret truths of man [Editors note: awaiting their confession on Freuds couch].

The gaze that was cast on the madman... could no longer be the same. [...] Now the mad were examined with both more neutrality and more passion. More neutrality, as it was in them that the deep truths of man were to be discovered, sleeping forms in which what they are come into being. And more passion too, as to recgonize the mad was to recognize oneself, feel the same forces, hear the same voices and see the same strange lights rise up within. [...] This gaze could no longer see without seeing itself. [...] 'I believe,' said Cyprien, the protagonist of a Hoffmann novel,

I firmly believe that through abnormal phenomena, Nature allows us to peer into the most fearsome abysses, and in fact at the very heart of the terror that has often overcome me through this strange commerce with the mad, intuitions and images have often risen up in my spirit, lending it an extraordinary new life, vigour and energy.

But while this recognition may have been welcome in lyrical experience, it could find no place in reflective thought. It protected itself, affirming with growing insistence that the mad were nothing but objects, medical things.

...the threats within [the] subterranean communication between the mad and those who recognized, judged and condemned them diminished, as the illness became more rigorously objectified, circumscribed inside the space of a body and invested in a purely organic process. Medicine thereby put an end to that lyrical recognition, hiding its moral accusations behind the objectivity of observation. [...] Everything that was 'philistine' in its [the nineteenth century's] attitude towards mental illness can be found there [i.e., the medical literature of that period] perfectly represented, and until Freud or thereabouts it was in the name of 'general paralysis'
[which furnished an organic model for the 'general comprehension of psycho-pathological symptoms'] that this philistine medical expression was to defend itself against any other form of access to the truth of madness.

The paradox of 'positive' psychology in the ninteenth century was to have only been possible from the moment of negativity: the psychology of the personality through an analysis of its splitting, the psychology of memory by amnesia, of language by aphasia, of intelligence by mental deficiency.


...in writing the history of the mad, what we have done-- not on the level of a chronology of discoveries, or a history of ideas, but by following the links in the chain of the fundamental structures of experience-- is to write the history of the things that made possible the very appearance of a psychology.

...homo psychologicus (psychological man) is descended from homo mente captus (insane man).


The madness of desire, insane murders, the most unreasonable passions-- all are wisdom and reason, since they are a part of the order of nature. Everything that morality and religion, everything that a clumsy society has stifled in man, revives in the castle of murders. [...] There is nothing that the madness of men invents which is not either nature made manifest or nature restored.

Through Sade and Goya, the Western world rediscovered the possibility of going beyond its reason with violence, and of rediscovering tragic experience beyond the promise of dialectics.


The madness of Tasso, Swift's melancholy and Rousseau's delirium [i.e, the persecution complex in his Dialogues] were all part of their oeuvre, in the same way that those oeuvres belonged to them. In these texts, and in the lives of these men, the same violence spoke,... language and delirium intertwined. But further, the oeuvre and madness, in the classical experience,  were more profoundly united at another level: paradoxically, at the point where they limited one another. For there existed a region where madness challenged the oeuvre, reduced it ironically, made of its iconographic landscape a pathological world of hallucinations; that language which was delirium was not an oeuvre. And conversely, delirium wrenched itself away from its meagre truth as madness if it was certified as an oeuvre. But in that contestation itself, there was no reduction of the one by the other, but rather (as in Montaigne), the discovery of a central uncertainty where the oeuvre was born, at the moment when it stops being born and is truly a work of art. In that confrontation, which Tasso and Swift bore witness after Lucretius [editors note: see reference to Lucretius's madness in Matthew Arnold's On the Modern Elements in Literature]-- and which it was vain to attempt to separate into lucid intervals and crisis-- was disclosed a distance where the very truth of an oeuvre became problematic: was it madness or art? Inspiration, or hallucination? [...] The madness of the writer was, for other men, the chance to see being born, over and over again, in the discouragement of repetition and disease, the truth of the work of art.

...this frequency ["in the modern world of works of art that explode out of madness"] must be taken seriously, as if it were the insistence of a question; from the time of Holderlin and Nerval, the number of writers, painters, and musicians who have "succumbed" to madness has increased; but let us make no mistake here; between  madness and the work of art [oeuvre] there has been no accommodation, no more constant exchange, no communication between languages; their opposition is much more dangerous than formerly; and their competition now allows no quarter: theirs is a game of life and death. Artaud's madness does not slip through the interstices of his oeuvre: it is precisely the absence of an oeuvre, the constantly reiterated presence of that absence, its central void experienced and measured in all its endless dimensions.

Madness is the absolute rupture of the oeuvre: it forms the constitutive moment of abolition, which dissolves in time the truth of the oeuvre; it draws the exterior edge, the line of dissolution, the outline against the void. Artaud's oeuvre experiences its own absence in madness, but that experience, the fresh courage of that endlessly recommenced ordeal, all those words hurled against a fundamental absence of language, all that space of physical suffering and terror which surrounds or rather coincides with the void-- that is the oeuvre itself: the cliff-face over the abyss of the oeuvres absence. [...] It is of little importance on exactly which day in the autumn of 1888 Nietzsche went mad for good, and after which his texts no longer afford philosophy but psychiatry: all of them, including the postcard to Strindberg, belong to Nietzsche, and all are related to The Birth of Tragedy.

...by the madness which interrupts it, an oeuvre opens a void, a moment of silence, a question without answer, provokes a breach without reconciliation where the world is forced to question itself.

What is necessarily a profanation in the work of art returns to that point, and, in the time of that work swamped in madness, the world is made aware of its guilt. Henceforth, and through the mediation of madness, it is the western world that becomes culpable (for the first time in the Western world) in relation to the work of art; it is now arraigned by the work of art, obliged to order itself by its language, compelled by it to a task of recognition, of reparation, to the task of restoring reason from that unreason and to that unreason... .
There is no madness except as the final instant of the work of art - the work endlessly drives madness to its limits; where there is a work of art [oeuvre], there is no madness; and yet madness is contemporary with the work of art, since it inaugurates the time of its truth. The moment when, together, the work of art and madness are born and fulfilled is the beginning of the time when the world finds itself arraigned by that work of art and responsible before it for what it is.

Ruse and new triumph of madness: the world that thought to measure and justify madness through psychology must justify itself before madness, since in its struggles and agonies it measures itself by the excess of works like those of Nietzsche, of Van Gogh, of Artaud. And nothing in itself, especially not what it can know of madness, assures the world that it is justified by such works of madness.'

[Khalfa's translation:
"That ruse is a new triumph for madness. The world believes that madness can be measured, and justified by means of psychology, and yet it must justify itself when confronted by madness, for its efforts and discussions have to measure up to the excess of the oeuvres of men like Nietzsche, Van Gogh and Artaud [should we add Foucault's name here?]. And nothing within itself, and above all nothing that it can know of madness, serves to show that these oeuvres of madness prove it right."]


Appendix: Madness, the absence of an Ĺ“uvre.
One day, perhaps, we will no longer know what madness was. Its form will have closed up on itself, and the traces it will have left will no longer be intelligible. [...] Artaud will then belong to the foundation of our language, and not to its rupture; neuroses will be placed among the forms that are constitutive of (and not deviant from) our society.

Why did Western culture expel to its extremities the very thing in which it might just as easily have recognised itself - where it had in fact recognised itself in an oblique fashion? Why, since the nineteenth century, but also since the classical age, had it clearly stated that madness was the naked truth of man, only to place it in a pale, neutralised space, where it was almost entirely cancelled out? Why had it accepted the words of Nerval and Artaud, and recognised itself in their words but not in them?

The familiar game of gazing at the furthest part of ourselves in madness, of lending an ear to those voices which, from far away, tell us most clearly what we are, that game, with its rules, its tactics, its inventions, its ruses, its tolerated illegalities, will forever be nothing more than a complex ritual whose meanings will have been reduced to ashes.

...the relationship of a culture to the very thing that it excludes, and more precisely the relationship between our own culture and that truth about itself which, distant and inverted, it uncovers and covers up in madness.

So much so that we will no longer know how man was able to cast at a distance this figure of himself, how he could push beyond the limit the very thing that depended on him, and on which he depended.